In the space of one week the struggling airline went from basket case to national treasure, when the government announced it would bail out the carrier. Anger from rival carriers quickly followed. Simon Calder on the price of keeping the country connected

To unite Michael OLeary and Willie Walsh is an achievement. The two Irishmen run, respectively, Ryanair and British Airways parent company, IAG, and spend their professional lives competing ferociously. Yet with its rescue of Flybe, the UK government amalgamated them in apoplexy. Its in breach of competition rules, said Mr OLeary. The government are covering up the deal. 
A misuse of public funds, chorused Mr Walsh, who promptly complained to the European Commission in Brussels about illegal state aid while the UK remains subject to EU rules. Halfway through January 2020, the airline that began life as Jersey European in 1979 was apparently on the brink of collapse. Again.
In the cruel winter of 2018-19, the then-chief executive, Christine Ourmières-Widener, said: There has been a recent softening in growth in the short-haul market, as well as continued headwinds from higher fuel and currency costs.
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